RMT union members demonstrating against Johnson's threat to the right to strike, London 19.12.19, photo JB

RMT union members demonstrating against Johnson’s threat to the right to strike, London 19.12.19, photo JB   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Nick Chaffey, Southern Socialist Party regional secretary

RMT transport union guards on South Western Railway (SWR) will be on strike again, 9-10 March and 12-13 March, in their fight to maintain ‘safety critical’ guards on the railways.

SWR publicly state: “We have guaranteed to keep a guard on every train, but it is vital that we use the most efficient means of dispatch when we introduce our new trains so that we can deliver the improved performance our customers so desperately need.” So, with the intention of introducing driver-only operations!

Three years into their franchise, SWR service is woeful. Such is the failure of SWR to deliver an acceptable service, Tory transport minister, Grant Shapps, has announced the possibility of renationalising the franchise. SWR remains an overcrowded, expensive and unreliable service where profits come first, and only 74% of trains arrive on time or less than five minutes late.

All the evidence shows the importance of safety critical trained guards; for their role in dispatching trains, where most serious accidents and fatalities happen; for the safety of passengers from physical and sexual assaults, and for emergencies where trains have to be evacuated due to breakdowns and accidents.

Passengers are overwhelmingly in favour of having guards on the train. However, for SWR the issue is not about safety or service but profits.

If train operating companies (TOCs) were serious about the future of railways and improving their efficiency, they would invest the necessary funds. That is not happening. So the RMT is calling for the permanent renationalisation of the railways to guarantee investment, reduce fares and maintain safety.

The Socialist Party argues that compensation should only be paid on the basis of proven need – the profiteers should get nothing.

As this strike begins, the Tories continue their attacks on the RMT transport union, and are preparing legislation to stop strikes on the railways. An attack, if successful, would almost certainly be carried through across the public and private sector.

  • Wessex RMT is holding a Defend the Right to Strike Solidarity Conference on Saturday 7 March to mobilise its members and wider trade unionists to protect our essential workplace rights.
  • Speakers include Steve Hedley RMT, assistant general secretary, Ronnie Draper, BFAWU bakers’ union general secretary and Rob Williams, National Shop Stewards Network national chair. Conference begins 2pm, Friends Meeting House, Ordnance Road, Southampton, SO15 2AZ.